In some welcome news, a retired army doctor says he has perfected a simple and affordable technique to allow the hearing impaired to hear.
"I have developed a simple yet innovative approach in a family practice for age-related hearing loss (presbycusis), without the need for any hearing aid or surgical intervention," Lt. Col. (retd.) Rajesh Chauhan told IANS.
"This technique might also be useful for patients who have a noise-induced hearing loss and for those suffering from otosclerosis, which also results in poor hearing and gradual hearing loss," Chauhan added.
"This new technique that we accidentally developed requires refinement and research. It will help in managing age-related hearing loss without surgery, hearing aids or injections. It does not require surgery and hearing improves noticeably immediately after the first sitting," Chauhan explained.
Two of his patients who had been using hearing aids have stopped using them.
Chauhan is cagey about divulging details about his technique. He first wants to patent it.
"It is a combination of many techniques, and they all work in tandem. It needs just two or three sittings to bring about the desired changes," Chauhan said.
According to Chauhan, the younger generation and the aged are more prone to deafness from increasing noise pollution, use of gadgets, mobile phones and loud music.
Experts and data available from various sources, including the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), make it clear that hearing impairment is on the rise in India, and one out of every 12 people is a victim.
Chauhan said the most common cause of loss of hearing is a perforated ear drum, a thin membrane that separates the ear canal and the middle ear. Another major cause is presbycusis, hearing loss due to ageing.
Nearly 6.3 percent of the Indian population suffers from progressive and acute hearing loss.
A year-long pilot phase of the programme by the Rehabilitation Council of India was to be kicked off in 25 districts across 12 states in 2007.
The programme aimed to train over 100,000 healthcare professionals from the district to the grassroot level about prevention, promotion, early identification and rehabilitation of all types of ear diseases.
But the progress of the programme has been tardy, with no discernible results to cheer for.
Chauhan explained: "As we grow old, some of us might develop hearing loss. Most of the old people affected tend to ignore this problem. Hearing loss is troublesome and difficult to manage."
He added: "Some people try to overcome their hearing loss by using sign language, lip reading or by using a hearing aid. In certain cases, surgery and cochlear implant may help, but these are costly procedures."
"A lot of my energy goes in communicating with my mother-in-law, who is hard of hearing. When I talk to her, the neighbourhood thinks I am waging a verbal war. I wish there was a cure for this problem, other than the expensive hearing aid. We bought a cheap gadget, but that amplifies sound a thousand times and creates more problems," said Padmini, a homemaker.
Chauhan has a quick-fix solution for such people.
(Brij Khandelwal can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)